State Farm Hurricane Katrina LawsuitsApr 8, 2008
Keywords: State Farm Katrina Lawyer Mississippi Lawsuit Information Bad Faith
State Farm Hurricane Katrina Lawsuits
The Lawyers and attorneys at our firm are offering free consultations to residents of Mississippi whose attorneys were dismissed from lawsuits regarding State Farm Insurance Co.'s handling of Hurricane Katrina damage claims. In April 2008, law firms and attorneys affiliated with Richard "Dickie" Scruggs were barred from State Farm Hurricane Katrina lawsuits by a federal judge because of ethical lapses. Plaintiffs in those lawsuits were given a mere 45 days to find new counsel. In addition to representing Mississippi plaintiffs in their lawsuits against State Farm, our legal malpractice lawyers may also be able to help them file claims against their former attorneys for legal malpractice.
State Farm Hurricane Katrina Bad Faith Insurance Lawsuits
Our bad faith insurance lawyers have helped many victims of disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, obtain fair compensation from unscrupulous insurers. Bad faith insurance is any matter concerning an insurance claim by an insured individual that is wrongfully denied by the insurance company. An insurance policy is considered a contract between a policy holder and an insurance carrier. This contract requires that an insurance company acts in good faith towards policy holders. When an insurance company unfairly denies the benefits of the policy from its insured policy holders, it is considered to be in bad faith. Many of State Farms actions in dealing with losses sustained by Mississippi policy holders from Hurricane Katrina constitute bad faith.
State Farm was one of the largest insurers on the Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina made landfall there in 2005. Thousands of homes were reduced to rubble by wind and the massive storm surge created by the hurricane. Normal home owners policies do not cover damages from flooding, only wind. But in the case of Katrina claims, many home owners accused State Farm and other insurance companies of attributing damage to flooding, when in reality it was caused by wind, as a way to avoid paying the full value of claims. Some insurance companies initially made offers to settle claims for only pennies on the dollar, sparking thousands of lawsuits along the Gulf Coast.
But many Gulf Coast policyholders claim that the tactics used by State Farm and other insurers to avoid paying claims went far beyond simply denying payment for water damages. They assert that insurers colluded with adjusters to alter damage reports in a way that favored insurance companies. In the summer of 2007, one engineer who examined damaged Gulf Coast homes for insurance companies told Bloomberg.com that some of his reports were altered by the companies to say that homes were damaged by flood, and not by wind. By altering these reports, the insurance companies saved tens of thousands of dollars. Our bad faith insurance lawyers can make sure homeowners in Mississippi who have been cheated by State Farm are made whole.
Lawyers Dismissed from Mississippi State Farm Hurricane Katrina Lawsuits
Lawyers representing Mississippi plaintiffs in their lawsuits against State Farm were dismissed from the cases on April 4, 2008. Citing ethical concerns, U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. in Gulfport dismissed a group of attorneys affiliated with Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, the well-known lawyer who pleaded guilty in March 2008 to conspiring to bribe a judge. Judge Senter gave plaintiffs involved in the State Farm lawsuits 45 days to retain new lawyers. Our bad faith insurance lawyers have a great deal of experience with such cases. We urge Mississippi victims of State Farm's bad faith to contact us immediately to make sure their rights to sue State Farm are preserved.
Judge Senter barred attorneys working with Scruggs from representing Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi because of what the judge deemed to be "improper payments" made to Cori and Kerri Rigsby. The two sisters were employed by E.A. Renfroe & Co., an Alabama-based firm that State Farm contracted. The sisters supplied Scruggs with piles of documents they had secretly copied while employed by Renfroe. Scruggs touted the sisters as whistleblowers, but hired them as consultants and agreed to pay them $150,000 each. Payments to non-expert witnesses are limited by law, Senter said. "The payments Scruggs made to the Rigsby sisters bears no reasonable connection to any work they performed or to any expenses they incurred in testifying," the judge wrote. "These payments were clearly improper."
While Scruggs had withdrawn from the State Farm litigation following his indictment on bribery charges, members of his legal team went on to form the Katrina Litigation Group and continued representing plaintiffs in the Hurricane Katrina lawsuits. But the judge said that any attorney affiliated with Scruggs shared in the responsibility for his ethical lapses, as they were aware of the payments to the Rigsby sisters and did nothing to stop them.
Senter's ban applies to Barrett Law Office, Nutt & McAlister, the Lovelace Law Firm and Hesse & Butterworth and also applies to any cases against Renfroe, the firm that employed the Rigsby sisters. The judge also said the documents that the Rigsby sisters gave Scruggs can't be used as evidence unless the plaintiffs lawyers can show they were obtained through "ordinary means of discovery." Neither of the sisters will be allowed to testify for the plaintiffs.
Our firm prides itself on having the highest ethical standards. The ethical lapses cited by Judge Senter in his decision to ban members of the Katrina Litigation Group from State Farm Hurricane Katrina lawsuits do not live up to our high standards. Our bad faith insurance lawyers would never engage in conduct that could jeopardize our clients' cases.
Legal Malpractice Claims
Mississippi plaintiffs whose attorneys have been barred from State Farm Hurricane lawsuits may have a valid claim for legal malpractice. Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer fails to render competent professional service to a client and the client is damaged as a result of the failure. Legal malpractice can involve ethical misconduct such as that cited by Judge Senter in his decision to dismiss the Katrina Litigation Group attorneys.
Mississippi plaintiffs involved in the State Farm litigation are in danger of losing their cases before they are ever brought to trial simply because of the unethical conduct of their former attorneys. What's worse, these plaintiffs may have lost access to evidence and witness that are crucial to proving their claims. Our legal malpractice lawyers can help you determine if the law firms and attorneys whose ethical conduct created this unfortunate situation are liable for damages for endangering lawsuits against State Farm in Mississippi.
If you are a Mississippi resident suing State Farm over Hurricane Katrina damage claims, and you have been left without an attorney, please contact our law firm at once. Not only can our bad faith insurance lawyers help you in your fight against State Farm, but our legal malpractice attorneys may be able to help you collect damages from the law firms and lawyers who put your case in jeopardy. Please fill out our online form or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) as soon as possible.